Johnny DelValle, a pensive, cigar-smoking 35-year-old, takes regular baths in herbal leaves to cleanse himself of "negative vibes" from his 18 months in Iraq as an Army reservist. "You can't wipe out your memory," he said. "But there are things I've done to help." The Paterson native buys his herbs and holy beads at a corner botanica -- an alternative medicine pharmacy that sells bottles of "dragon blood" and snake oil, religious statuettes, or natural remedies like honey-based skin cream and herbal tea. As Latinos settled into New Jersey towns, so did botanicas. Their products -- from tiny bottles of snake oil used to treat asthma, to long and thin vials of purified sheep placenta used as hair conditioner -- are so popular, particularly among recent immigrants, that even a few traditional neighborhood pharmacies have been stocking the items. "It's like the grocery store," said DelValle of Caridad Botanica on River Street in Paterson. "You've got the corner bodega and now you have the corner botanica -- it's become part of the community." There's Botanica Tres Virtudes in Jersey City, Botanica Guaicapipuro in Newark and Botanica La Milagrosa in Union City. Among the traditional pharmacies that carry some botanica products are Kay Pharmacy in Paterson, Wintergreen Pharmacy Corp. in Elizabeth and Hines Pharmacy in Union City. Many go to botanicas for the "natural" remedies favored by immigrants who lack health insurance or don't trust doctors. Others are seeking health and life advice from an espiritista, or spiritual leader. Because Latinos often view emotional, spiritual and physical health as interconnected, it makes sense for their health providers to address multiple aspects of their well-being, said Noel Chavez, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who co-authored a 2001 study of botanicas as a health care option. For DelValle, who is Puerto Rican and Catholic, but also practices Yoruba, a saint-worshipping religion rooted in West Africa and replanted in Latin American countries during the slave trade, a visit to his favorite botanica also means a consultation with his spiritual adviser. That's Victor Valenzuela, a 53-year-old Paterson resident originally from El Salvador who has been dispensing love, career and medical advice at the botanica for more than 10 years. He tosses 16 numbered white shells onto a table to give spiritual readings to a line of waiting customers. "It could be an infection, a curse or something else," Valenzuela says of a patron's troubles. "Something evil." DelValle says the consultations have helped him find a wife, a stable job and soothe his nerves. He believes botanicas and Yoruba, with their statuettes and spirituality, are particularly popular among Hispanics like himself, who as Catholics already revere saints. NO PLACE TO BE SICK Others, like Gloria Ramirez of Dover, are simply seeking relief from physical ailments. Leaning a hand against her spine, Ramirez recalled the intense back pain that recently compelled her to visit a doctor at a local hospital, even though she has no health insurance. "Here, getting sick is the worst thing that can happen to a person," she said in Spanish. "In this country, you don't earn enough to go to a particular doctor." Normally, Ramirez, 40, who moved to Dover from Chile nine years ago, doesn't see doctors because they're too expensive. The doctor also prescribed pills that upset her stomach, so she prefers natural remedies popular in her home country. She uses garlic and parsley pills to aid circulation and cod liver oil to keep her cholesterol down. The oil, high in vitamins A and D, has many uses -- in Chile, Ramirez fed it to her two children to treat bronchitis. Exuding from their pores, it made their hair smell of fish in the bathtub, she recalled. Since many immigrants are undocumented and don't qualify for benefits, or are documented but earn an income slightly too high to qualify, they don't get preventative care, said Eva Turbiner, president of Zufall Health Center in Dover. When they do visit a doctor, they're reluctant to discuss home remedies for fear they wouldn't be accepted, she said. Zufall's doctors usually send their mostly immigrant patients to Goodale Pharmacy on Sussex Street to fill prescriptions, and patients often request their own remedies there. "Half of them we don't even know what the heck they are," said pharmacy employee Toni Bove, who is Puerto Rican. She usually asks for the main ingredients, and guesses. Often, customers are seeking plants sold in bulk in their home countries for a favorite remedy, and Bove refers them to a botanica on West Blackwell Street. Goodale Pharmacy stocks its own shelves with frequently requested products. Snake oil sells for $2.91. Shark liver oil, used to heal sores, goes for $3.33. There's polar bear oil for shiny, healthy hair, cod liver oil to soothe arthritis, or purified sheep placenta for $2.99, commonly sold in Venezuela and Puerto Rico. Eucalyptus leaves, particularly popular in winter, are sold whole in a bottle. To clear the sinuses, eucalyptus oil is dripped on a leaf, hung in a steaming shower and inhaled. "We aim to please a good portion of the Hispanic community," said Bove. "Depending on how they were raised, people have different ways of treating themselves -- Hispanics believe in the oils and extracts."